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Delta meltdown: Pilots union calls for fixes, investments in crew tracking

Delta passengers wait in line in hopes of catching their flight out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday, April 7, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Delta passengers wait in line in hopes of catching their flight out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday, April 7, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

In the wake of some 3,500 flight cancellations over five days over the last week, the pilots union at Delta Air Lines called for fixes including increased investment in systems for tracking crews.

Pilots and flight attendants "went days without receiving crew scheduling or tracking contact, were placed on hold (in some cases for over six hours), and were camped out in crew lounges and airports resembling refugee camps," according to Bill Bartels, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association unit at Delta, in a memo to pilots Tuesday.

Channel 2's Jim Strickland reports.

Crew scheduling is a combination of an automated and manual system, according to Delta. Pilots were waiting for calls back from a crew scheduling desk. The crew scheduling desk, like Delta’s customer service lines, was overloaded with calls during the cancellations.

The fixes should include IT investments in crew tracking and operational control,  “and likely enhanced staffing in those areas,” according to Bartels.

The pilots union said it has scheduled meetings with the company to be held after an analysis.

"The sheer magnitude of this event requires substantial improvements in the system" to prevent recurrence "and further damage to our brand," Bartel wrote. But "the solutions may not be that simple or expeditious, even with the increased resources being applied."

Bartels called it a “very frustrating event” and said there was not a problem with availability of pilots but that “there was a connectivity problem... connecting pilots and flight crews to their airplanes.”

Delta's chief operating officer Gil West apologized last week for a recovery that he said "has not been ideal."